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Senior Dogs: How To Handle Weight Loss

Senior Dogs: How To Handle Weight Loss

Chase Correll | August 22 2018

I love senior dogs. They’re wise, and they radiate an aura of gentle bliss. However, sometimes these radiators of gentle bliss become confronted by weight changes. As an owner, you want the best for your aging pup. Weight change in senior dogs, specifically weight loss, affects a dog’s health in a variety of ways and is caused by a variety of health and diet issues.
Before directing our attention to the common causes of weight loss and how they affect our senior pups, let’s start by identifying what is considered a ‘significant’ weight loss. Veterinarian standards consider a loss of greater than 10% of a dog’s normal weight to be a significant decrease in weight. For example, a normal weight for my parent’s Goldendoodle is 85 pounds (he’s a giant). If he lost 8.5 or more pounds in a few months, then a trip to the vet would be recommended. Remember, this decrease in weight wouldn’t be a sign to panic, just a cause for concern. Weight loss plays a natural part in the life of many senior dogs: only significant weight loss, as mentioned above, should warrant a trip to the vet.

Water: The Key To Life

One common cause of weight loss in older pups is dehydration. As our dogs begin to age, it becomes more difficult for them to retain fluids like they did in their wonder years. The common symptoms of dehydration are: dark urine, dry gums, lethargy, sunken eyes, and less urine. If your elderly pup appears to become dehydrated quite frequently, then take the ole pup to the vet for a checkup; sometimes, frequent dehydration can be a symptom of a kidney disease or diabetes. While it’s likely that your furry friend only needs a little more water, it’s best to be safe. After all, we want the best for our dog’s health and wellness.

Kidney/Liver Health

Kidney disease can lead to weight loss because a pup with kidney disease often loses its appetite. Along with loss of appetite, lethargy, pale gums, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, increased thirst, and excessive urination are all possible indicators of kidney disease. Monitoring your senior dog for these symptoms will benefit your dog’s wellness because catching kidney disease early makes it much more treatable. Early diagnosis makes any disease more manageable.
If your ole pup begins to lose weight and show signs of lethargy, increased thirst, fever, panting, vomiting/diarrhea, pale or yellow gums, or yellowing of skin/eyes, then it may have liver disease. Sudden weight loss is very common with liver disease. So a pup that loses a significant amount of weight in a short span of time (4-12 weeks) and also displays some of the symptoms listed should receive a checkup at the vet. Don’t panic though, these symptoms are often a result of less serious digestive problems, but only the vet can make that distinction. However, the most common indicator of liver problems is jaundice (yellowing of eyes/gums/skin). Keep that in mind while you monitor your senior dog’s health.

Oral Health

Dental issues may appear as a surprising cause for weight loss. However, it makes sense if you think about it: healthy teeth are key when it comes to eating. If your ole pup begins to suffer from broken or infected teeth, or gum disease like gingivitis, then it may be affecting its eating habits and resulting in weight loss. Be sure to take your senior dog to the vet for teeth cleanings or to brush its teeth at home. Symptoms of excessive drooling, rancid breath, difficulty eating or chewing, and swollen/bleeding gums all point to an oral health issue. A pup displaying these symptoms needs a visit to the vet to rule out any serious dental problems.


While diabetes may be a result of a dog who’s overweight or has poor nutrition, the disease itself can cause weight loss in dogs. When a pup has diabetes, it struggles to get energy from sugars because it can no longer break down sugar. Instead, the dog’s body attempts convert fat and protein into energy. This results in weight loss because the dog begins to burn off all of its fat and muscle. Lethargy, increased appetite, excessive thirst, and excessive urination are symptoms of diabetes in a dog. Getting medication from the vet will effectively treat a pup’s diabetes and should get it back to its normal weight in no time.

The C Word

While none of these causes of weight loss are fun to talk about, this one stinks the most: cancer. Cancer sucks and it’s like the worst thing to talk about. No one wants to hear about it. But when it comes to your senior dog’s health, it’s important to watch for symptoms. Things like decreased appetite, sudden lethargy, lumps/bumps/swelling, unusual bleeding, unusual urination (amount or frequency), and limping are all possible indicators of cancer. However, try not to panic if you notice any of these symptoms in your pup. As a wise doctor once told me, “When you see hoof prints, you assume they’re from a horse, not a zebra.” This applies to your dog’s health, as well. When you notice any of these symptoms, make sure to mention them to the vet. It’s the vet’s job to tell whether or not the symptoms are a cause for concern.


While it’s no fun to talk about, weight loss in senior dog’s remains an important topic. Catching any of the listed health issues early on will give you plenty more quality time with your aging fur baby. We love our wise pups and we need their gentle presence, so let’s keep them in great health!